Municipal Archives

Resources for Researching The Trinity River, Water Management, and the City of Dallas

Pathfinder Number 8​

The City of Dallas plays a significant role in the management of river water and groundwater in Dallas County, Texas. The Trinity River was named during the Spanish colonial era (La Santisima Trinidad), supposedly supplied by explorer Alonso DeLeón in 1690. The river rises in three principal branches: the East Fork, the Elm Fork, and the West Fork. A fourth smaller headstream is known as the Clear Fork. It flows 423 miles from the confluence of the Elm and West forks to the coast, making it the longest river having its entire course in Texas. 

The portion of the Trinity flowing through and around the City of Dallas has been connected historically to city government from its early use for commercial transportation to its use as a demarcating line between the northern and southern halves of the city, to its projected use as a recreational area. Dallas founder John Neely Bryan's original town survey used the Trinity as the western boundary, with streets laid out at right angles to the river. Flooding was a major problem in Dallas’ early years, the worst occurring in 1908. The bends in the river were straightened in 1929 and a series of levees built for flood control through a bond program that also included a number of new bridges, finally joining the two halves of the city.

In addition to the Trinity River, Dallas’s role in water management is also reflected in various local water agencies. The districts administer a number of water programs, including flood control, drainage, navigation, irrigation, domestic, commercial, and industrial water supply, sewage disposal, power supply, groundwater control, soil conservation, and recreation.  

Manuscript Collections

Collection 1991-119—Dallas County Fresh Water Supply Districts, 1926-1929
Contains receipts and vouchers documenting the Dallas County Fresh Water Supply.

Collection 1991-120—Dallas Flood and Levee Control Districts, 1919-1968
Contains contracts and agreements, receipts, and accounting records of the fourteen control districts created between 1916 and 1938 for flooding prevention. Also includes one oversized scrapbook of Dallas newspaper clippings (1932-1935) regarding flooding of the Trinity and flood and levee control projects of the City of Dallas.

Collection 1991-008—Oak Cliff Sewerage Company, 1903
Records regarding the Oak Cliff Sewerage Company’s takeover of the Citizens Sewerage Company in February, 1903.

Collection 1991-027—East Dallas Water Supply Company, 1886-1890
Contains correspondence and financial documents of the East Dallas Water Supply Company [City of East Dallas] prior to sale to the City of Dallas.

Collection 1991-066—Sewage Treatment & Disposal and Water Purification, 1912-1938
Reports and studies on wastewater treatment by the Dallas Waterworks (Dallas Water Utilities).

Collection 1992-010—W. W. Horner Stormwater Outlet Sewers and Drainage Report, 1931-1936

Collection 1992-011—Municipal Water Reservoirs in Denton County, 1922-1928

Collection 1997-022—Sewer Contracts with C. W. Olcott, 1909-1916

Collection 1991-121—Dallas County Water Control and Improvement Districts 3, 5, and 7, 1939-1951
Contains original minute books and early decisions of the Districts. The districts are considered “MUDs” (Municipal Utility Districts), a political subdivision of the State of Texas authorized by the Texas Water Code to provide water, sewage, drainage, and other services.

Collection 1994-007—Continental Avenue Viaduct Over Trinity River, 1930
Contains contract, correspondence, specifications, and blueprints concerning the building of the Continental Avenue Bridge connecting Industrial Boulevard with Oak Cliff.

Collection 1995-034—Ulrickson Committee Report, 1927-1930
An early city master plan including recommendations for City of Dallas improvements projects such as levees and flood protection and water supply.

Collection 1991-060—Dallas Water Utilities Records, 1882-Current
Contains internal memoranda, reports and studies, planning records, photographs, and operations records relating to water management, bridges and the pumping stations situated on the Trinity River operated by the City of Dallas 

Collection 1999-001—Map Collection, 1868
Maps created mostly by City departments for various city government functions, such as planning and public works. Maps often include information about property ownership, city limits, extent of neighborhood development, and transportation details such as interurban lines, bus lines, and train tracks.

Collection 1994-001—Annexation Plat Maps, 1890-1956
Contains maps used in the process of annexing land to the City of Dallas, including areas adjoining the Trinity River and creeks. Also includes a 1939 report by John W. Carpenter, “Conservation and Utilization of Soil and Water in the Trinity Watershed” which contains a map concerning navigability of the Trinity.

Collection 2003-001—Aerial Map Photographs of Dallas, Texas 1930, 1949, 1974, 1979
Five hundred black and white photographic negatives and prints.  Aerial photographs of the entire City of Dallas for use by the city’s Public Works and Planning Departments.  Maps can be used to examine existing structures.  Most maps are 1”-500’ scale.

City Secretary’s Files/Council Action Files

[City Council Minutes, Ordinances and Resolutions]

Complete earlier records (1868-1950) and later records (1979-1997) are on microfiche and indexed by subject matter and by ordinance and resolution numbers, and may be viewed at the City Secretary’s Office. 

Mid-century minutes, ordinances and resolutions (1950-1970s) are indexed and microfilmed, excluding original contracts and memoranda.  Other council records from the same period are in process of microfilming; contact archivist for status.

Council minutes, agendas, and ordinances and resolutions from 1995 to the present are available in electronic form at the City Secretary’s Office website.

Council records contain primary documents associated with annexation, early neighborhoods and neighborhood groups, evidence of construction of streets, bridges, parks, libraries, and other city properties and services in specific neighborhoods.

City of Dallas Board and Commission Minutes [Various Dates]

City Plan and Zoning Commission Minutes 1919-1983
Bound minutes from 1919-1983 on microfilm, unindexed; later years located in City Secretary Files on microfiche by year and indexed.  This body is responsible for making recommendations to the City Council regarding planning and zoning matters and is also involved in the platting and recording of subdivisions and additions.  Early-day developers and key dates in developments are documented if they appeared before the commission.

1908 Floodwater of the Texas and Pacific Railroad bridge with the tracks washed outDallas Water Utilities Records, 1888-1997


1908 Floodwater looking towards the City from Oak Lawn.  Water is along Missouri-Kansas & Texas Railroad tracks and along Adams Street at Turtle Creek.  Stack at left is standpipe on Pole Cat Hill, Dallas Water Utilities Records, 1888-1997